FRAMINGHAM – Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has proclaimed July 12 – 18, 2020, to be Hurricane Preparedness Week Proclamation July 2020 in an effort to emphasize both the Commonwealth’s potential vulnerability to tropical storms and hurricanes, and the importance of preparing for their impact, including taking necessary precautions during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Residents and visitors are encouraged to use this week to prepare for hurricanes, tropical storms and other emergencies.
“During the ongoing COVID-19 response, our administration continues to ensure that the state and its residents are prepared for other disasters, including hurricanes and tropical storms,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Preparing in advance will help reduce damage to your property and protect your family in case of a hurricane or other emergency.”
“Should a disaster take place during the COVID-19 public health emergency, communities would face additional challenges with necessary evacuations and sheltering,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Our administration continues to coordinate with cities and towns across the Commonwealth to enhance their readiness before the next hurricane or tropical storm.”
“As the peak of tropical cyclone activity in Massachusetts has historically been during August and September, now is the time to begin preparing yourself, your family, your home, and your business,” said Massachusetts Public Safety and Security Secretary Thomas Turco. “Whether you live in a coastal evacuation zone that may experience storm surge or further west in the Berkshires, tropical systems can bring heavy inland rainfall, flooding, and destructive winds in all parts of the state and we encourage all residents to prepare.”
“The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) continues to work with our partner agencies to plan how to respond to disasters while considering the public health challenges of COVID-19,” said MEMA Director Samantha Phillips. “We are working closely with the Department of Public Health and other state agencies to adapt our sheltering and evacuation plans to the COIVD-19 environment. These changes will help ensure people are able to socially distance, safely quarantine and isolate, and reduce exposure to the coronavirus if evacuations and sheltering become necessary. We encourage all residents to learn if they live in a hurricane evacuation zone, make an emergency plan, assemble an emergency kit, and stay informed. Given COVID-19, residents should also add face coverings, disinfectants and hand sanitizer to their emergency kits and plan where they would evacuate to if needed.”
MEMA is headquartered in Framingham.
How Residents Can Prepare
- Make an Emergency Plan – Have an emergency plan of how your family would communicate, evacuate, and shelter in place that addresses the needs of all of your family members, including seniors, children, individuals with access and functional needs, and pets. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/make-a-family-emergency-plan
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, your plan to evacuate should include where you might evacuate to (relatives’ home, hotel, etc.) given your circumstances. If you are in a high-risk population, the safest option may be to evacuate to a location without the general public such as a hotel, relatives’ home or other destination.
- Build an Emergency Kit – Build or customize an emergency kit that will sustain your household for three to five days without power. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/build-an-emergency-kit.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, include face coverings or masks, disinfectants, hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies that you may need in an emergency.
- Stay Informed – Every family should have multiple methods for receiving emergency alerts. Learn more about different types of alerting and information tools including the Emergency Alert System, Wireless Emergency Alerts, NOAA Weather Radio, social and traditional news media, 2-1-1 hotline and local notification systems: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/be-informed-and-receive-emergency-alerts
- Know Your Evacuation Zone – Learn if you live or work in a hurricane evacuation zone: www.mass.gov/knowyourzone
Commonwealth Hurricane Season Preparedness Activities in a COVID-19 Environment
MEMA and the Department of Public Health have developed guidance for the Commonwealth and municipalities for providing operating shelters and conducting evacuations during COVID-19. This guidance will be provided to municipalities to inform their planning and preparedness for hurricane season and will be used to adjust the Commonwealth’s mass care and evacuation plans to help keep individuals both safe and healthy during a disaster.
Working in partnership with the Emergency Support Function Team and with local partners, some of the steps MEMA is taking to prepare for the 2020 hurricane season during COVID-19 include re-evaluating capacities of state-initiated regional shelter sites; preparing for the need for additional evacuation transportation vehicles; adding screening, sanitization, disinfection, and general public health protocols to existing mass care plans; and planning for and preparing to provide sheltering in non-congregate settings such as hotels.
Photo of Hurricane Florence courtesy of NOAA